Fear and the Nashville Statement

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My trip to Synod 2016 was the first time I heard articulated a "need for clarity" when talking about the inclusion of LGBT Christians in the church. The recent "Nashville Statement" by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood purports to provide that “clarity.” The authors claim to speak with grace and love, but their words ring hollow as they promote conversion therapy, complimentarianism, and patriarchy. Going further, they even state that Christians who do not agree with their position are not true Christians.

That is hate and fear. It is profoundly damaging to our Christian witness, and theologically wrong in it's elevation of human sexuality to an issue of salvation.

It did not appear to me that any CRC affiliated persons were among the initial signatories, and I was encouraged by that. However, I sadly have no doubt many in our denomination look favorably upon the Nashville Statement. I pray that the eventual report delivered by the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-Laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality would have a different tone. I hope their report welcomes and affirms God’s love for those who have been marginalized rather than capitulating to fear.

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Participant

I frankly don't see where the Nashville Statement contradicts statements made by the CRC about the same subject matter.  Could the author or someone point out those differences?

I also don't see where the Nashville Statement "promotes conversion therapy," nor "patriarchy."  I do see where it might be said to promote "complementarianism" but not in a way different from the CRC.  Anyone?

Community Builder

Doug,

Conversion therapy, while not explicitly named, is what the writers are talking about in Articles 12 and 13. The belief that through sufficient prayer and supplication that God will make you "not-gay" (or trans, or queer, etc.). I do not deny that God has the power to do whatever He desires, but this message of "if you pray hard enough, x will happen" has been used to emotionally and spiritually manipulate and abuse LGBT people in the church, especially youth.

Similarly, on complementarianism and patriarchy, I read Article 4 as the assertion that God has assigned roles to male and female and that to challenge those roles is to challenge God's intended design. And personally, as an egalitarian and a feminist, I don't believe male and female exist as fixed archetypes that we must mold ourselves into. I would probably agree with you that this isn't a new statement compared to the CRC or any other conversations that have been had on this point before, except when paired with Article 10. The statement that we cannot "agree to disagree" on this in Article 10, and the subsequent statements by CBMW doubling down on this point, are an unnecessary and divisive ultimatum, and one that this collection of individuals (CBMW) don't have the authority to make.

Participant

Jonathan: I don't read in Articles 12 and 13 what you claim for them.   Indeed, the last phrase in Article 12 seems to make clear that believers may be drawn to sin but yet resist it.

As to Article 4, very little is said by the Nashville Statement except that "God made us male and female," and that this "difference" is a matter of "original creation design."  It doesn't even say what that design difference is.

So with the possible exception of Article 10, which is unclear, I think we agree this Nashville Statement is rather unremarkable in terms of how it compares to the CRC position.  Given that, I think your assertion that the statement represents "hate and fear" is a bit hyperbolic.  I think you are correct that "many in our denomination look favorably upon the Nashville Statement," in large part because they will (accurately) perceive it as in line with what the denomination has said, which is what they believe.

Just curious: what do you think about the "Denver Statement?"

Community Builder

I glanced at the Denver Statement, while I certainly agree with more of it, I still don't find the point-by-point "Affirm/Deny" structure to be helpful in ministry contexts. It might be helpful in debate club, but that's not what Church is.

Community Builder

I agree with Jonathan that although in theory God can choose to make people not-gay, as He can also make them not-schizophrenic or whatever, but in the same way that Jesus did not heal all the sick people in Palestine during His ministry on earth, so today, God does not choose to change all people to conform to the world's conception of normality.  I have had to learn to live with my illness, and LGBT people have to learn to live with who they are.  I am NOT saying that being homosexual is a mental illness, but it is different from the norm, and pressuring people to change who they are is not a proof of love and acceptance.  

Participant

I'm not sure where the fear you express is being presented. I believe you are reading too much between the lines of the Nashville Statement. If you have more documentation for clarification of your points, I'd be interested in reading them. I don't read any capitulation to fear in the statement.

 

Community Builder

Rick,

When I say "fear", I mean fear among the signatories that there are alternate, valid interpretations of scripture from what they believe it says. I'm sure they wouldn't describe it as fear, but that's what I believe it is. The clearest thing I can point to (that rises beyond debating semantics) is this post by Denny Burk on the CBMW website. He writes, "Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about. Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise."

Participant

JI Packer is one of the signatories.  I really doubt he signed because of his "fear" that "there are alternate, valid interpretations" about this issue.

Community Builder

Neither of us may know exactly why he signed, but the fact is he did sign a statement saying Christians who disagree with this position aren't Christians. Soooo...

Participant

"Soooo," what?  First, you characterize the statement rather than quoting it, but second, you "sooo" as if Packer's "fear" should be self-evident.  But I still don't see Packer's "fear".

Participant

To be clear, what Jonathan did was point to a characterization of Article 10 by Denny Burk, the president of CBMW. Given that CBMW created the Nashville Statement, any writings they have on the topic should be treated as more than simple characterization. Just as we treat the Federalist Papers as providing more insight into the intents of the Constitution, rather than as a third party's characterization.

The fear is CBMW's. Packer signed the document. Therefore the he is implicit in the fear, even if it is not something he personally feels.

I believe "hate and fear" is a way to both label and kill a discussion and not useful for debate. People say things like "You're homophobic" and give you other labels just because they don't like someone disagreeing with them. I have high respect for people like Francis Chan and others who signed that statement. I would never characterize him as a man who promotes or teaches "hate and fear." I think such labeling dies a diservice to a discussion and tries to control or stifle discussion.

Participant

OK, so let's table the term "fear" for a moment. Would you also agree that Article 10 is a conversation killer?

As an aside: there are many names on the Nashville Statement who I like, respect, and read. That's part of why this hurts so deeply for me. I feel betrayed by people I trust, and wonder if they'd question my faith.

Kyle, Article 10 references "homosexual immorality and transgenderism" as sin. I hope that Christians can all agree that all immorality is sin. So the question seems to come down to whether one can be a practicing homosexual and not be sinning. Transgenders are another categoty, but my reading is that it is rooted in sin as well. We had a transgender man visit our church a while back. He said he loved it. I took him out to lunch and we talked a long time. He said he liked our theology and friendliness. After attending our worship only once and then going fishing with a couple of us and having lunch with me, he mentioned as I asked how I could pray for him if I would mind if he showed up at church next week dressed as a woman and maybe use the woman's bathroom. I would hope you would have a whole bunch of problems with that with someone who is testing the waters, who would make our woman and children uncomfortable from the beginning, who's "people" have one of the highest suicide rates of any group, who seemed to be very confused and manipulative...it seems to me that you would owe your people as a pastor some protection. I said let's talk about this before we proceed any further. The next day he moved in with a different girl - he's had 3 wives - and texted that he was as happy as he has ever been. There is something very sinful and unstable about his whole demeanor. I was willing to talk with him, counsel him, look at scripture with him, pray with him, but not give him a license to check out the men and women and children at will in the church. I think there is very unsound, unstable thinking that is rooted in sin. So I don't have much problem with article 10. My issue was not fear of this man, but the safety and well-being of others. I offered to be his friend, to do emails and texts and he ended the conversations. I was always loving toward him and never showed any fear or hatred for some of the off-the-wall things he said and that he wanted to do. So please don't label me as a hater and a fearer of those who are homosexual and transgender. Because I have people in my extended circle who are such.

Community Builder

Virgil,

I'm glad to hear that you are willing to engage with people in the LGBT community. I cannot speak to the interaction you had, but I will say it certainly does not match my experience. I have found the LGBT Christians I have met to be people of deep personal faith, who have spoken to and enriched my own understanding of God's love and grace. As you continue to engage, I would encourage you to avoid referring to people as "a homosexual" or "a transgender". They are people loved by God, no matter how they express their gender and sexuality, and the terms you are using would be taken by many as derogatory.

Article 10 itself references "homosexual immorality and transgenderism" as you say, but by the words of CBMW President Denny Burk himself, they mean far more. "We are declaring what it means to be a male or female image-bearer. We are defining the nature of the marriage covenant and of the sexual holiness and virtue. To get these questions wrong is to walk away from Jesus not to him." I understand Burk to be saying that the meaning of Article 10 is to signal a much broader understanding on human sexuality and gender identity. I take this to mean that even if I agree with their position on LGBT Christians (I don't) but view gender as non-binary, I cannot be a Christian by their standard.

Thanks for your admonition Kyle. I will take that not as a hate statement, but as wise counsel. I never referred to any of the folks in my circles as homosexual or transgender in conversation. I like to to think of them as human beings like anybody else. I do not like these categories that we've created in our society. We are creating division rather than unity. But the men - that's usually who I interact with - will refer to themselves as transgender or in same-sex relationships. So I take it that you promote a double-standard. If the man or woman introduces themselves as transgender or homosexual, that's fine. But if I use the term as they have, then I am being derogatory. Can you explain that too me?  How come when they describe themselves that way, it is fine. But if I honor their description and repeat it, I am sinning, right?

By the way, I have a Christian friend who is supporting his daughter going through her sex-change surgery. She wanted to be referred to as he. Now it's it, but he's not sure when and what he's supposed to call her anymore. She can change by the hour or the day. What is so wonderful and right and healthy about all of that confusion? He had a daughter, now a son, then an it and now he's not sure? How do you counsel him when he asks you for advice? I admire him for loving his daughter so graciously. But even that is derogatory on my part according to you because she doesn't want to be called a daughter now, right?

Whoops. I think my last comment was in response to Jonathan, not Kyle. Sorry about that.

Participant

Kyle: I actually think it is fair to say that in some sense Article 10 is a conversation killer, and in a sense, signing on to the Nashville Statement generally is a conversation killer.   But then the CRC statements in the past about these questions are equally conversation killers.  In fact whenever the CRC says something, you can look at that as a conversation killer. 

But there is a sense in which characterizing a stated position, whether the Nashville Statement or any prior CRC statement, as a statement made out of "hate and fear" is a bit different.  It doesn't constitute an argument about the confesssional stance but rather a claim of an internal motivation on the part of of the stance taker, an attempt to convince by ad hominem argument (not by argument against the stance itself) that the stance is a wrong one.

Now you may say that the confessional stance takers who signed on to the Nashville statement are being derogatory (judgmental) to others by stating that people who take other stances or act on them are acting sinfully.  And I understand that, but that level of judgment (and it is judgment) is unavoidable, and not ad hominem.  It may judge an action or perspective negatively, but that judgment results from an argument about the stance itself, rather than from a claim that the motivation of the stance taker is all the proof needed to judge whatever stance the person took.

Participant

We both agree that, at some point, decisions often need to be made in the interest of actual progress; however, the decision ought to come out of discussion and reflect the church community's discernment. Which raises the question: what was the nature and extent of the conversation that led up to the Nashville Statement?

If I understand you correctly: "hate and fear" is a judgment about someone's internal state, therefore ad hominem?

Participant

Another problem I have with Article 10: it singles out "homosexual immorality or transgenderism" as a litmus test for Christian or not. Why not simply (as they did in other articles) use the phrase "sexual immorality" there?

As I read Article 10, if I believe having an affair is OK, I can still call myself a Christian (albeit a sinful one). On the other hand, if I am undecided about the sinfulness of homosexuality, not only am I sinful, but I'm not a genuine Christian.

Why the discrepancy?

Participant

Sorry Kyle but that's a bit of a silly argument.  The Nashville Statement doesn't condemn homicide or burglary or embezzlement either.  It is a statement about less than all of human activity.  Your argument can be used to damn any and all statements, creeds, or confessions.

The words "litmus test for Christian or not" are yours, not the authors or signers of this statement.

Participant

The Nashville Statement is intended to be a clarification of a Christian view of sexual morality; from the Preamble:

"Therefore, in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture, we offer the following affirmations and denials."

Consequently all sexual immorality is well within the scope of the statement, unlike homicide, burglary, or embezzlement.

As for the litmus test, I refer back to Denny Burk's blog post about the statement:

"Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about."

CBMW's view is: if you disagree with the statement, you're on the wrong side of the line in the sand. Sure seems like a litmus test to me.

Participant

Kyle: Again you have to explain the statement for lack of the statement saying what you claim.  The Nashville makes no claim to comprehensively opine as to all questions about human sexuality.  Are you supposing they approve of heterosexual adultery because this statement doesn't cover it.  Granted, embezzlement is not sexual but this argument remains silly notwithstanding, and for the same reason.

What I would recommend you do is to put together your own Denver type of statement.  Get together with others, like the Nashville and Denver folk have done, and say what you think.  You can even comprehensively cover all sex related questions if you like, so that no one would accuse you have having a "litmus test"  (although I would defend you if you didn't :-) ).  Seriously, do a Denver style response.  Or align with Denver.  Its easy to tear down, not as easy to build up.  Make your affirmative case so folks can evaluate your position.

The 9th Commandment commands us to avoid bearing false witness against out neighbor.

Unless we are able to read the internal motivations of people (i.e. we're mind readers), or the person has explicitly stated their internal motivations, isn't it bearing false witness against them to say they are motivated by fear and hate?

Wouldn't it be better to take them at their word: that they are motivated by faithfulness to Scripture, concern for the integrity of God's design for Family, and love of people who are lost in sinfulness and headed to destruction?

Community Builder

I don't agree with them but I'm not questioning their faith. You're right that I can't read the minds of the signatories, so all I'm left with is their actions as evidence for what they believe. I fundamentally disagree with how they view human sexuality, gender, and God's grace and love.

If you fundamentally disagree with them, feel free to express that.  What Dan is objecting to is your assigning of the dual motivations of hatred and fear, which you cannot know and which fly in the face of the testimony of the signatories.  I think it's "profoundly damaging to our Christian witness" for you to bear false witness in this manner.  

Community Builder

By that same logic I can say the authors of the Nashville Statement are barring false witness against LGBT Christians by denying their faith.

You're going with the "they did it too" defense? 

Participant

Jonathan: I'd be interested in reading your own Denver like response to the Nashville.  Denver fundamentally disagrees with Nashville as well, and their statement makes clear how.  I appreciate the authors of Denver for doing that.

Community Builder

This piece from The American Conservative may bridge some of the gap where we've been talking past each other.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/is-the-nashville-statement...

Ok, since it appears Jon's original post distracts from the main issue, let me re-ask one of the most pressing questions related to the NS. According to Article 10, and the clear clarification by Denny Burk on the CBMW website, He writes, "Readers who perceive Article 10 as a line in the sand have rightly perceived what this declaration is about. Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise."

Am I wrong in thinking this says that if you believe differently than the Nashville statement (i.e. God's revelation explained/defined) then you aren't a Christian?  

Participant

I think Art 10 is a bit ambiguous, but if and to the extent it declares that one cannot be Christian if one believes gay sex is good, I disagree with the Nashville Statement.

I think all who so declare are simply wrong, but that some who so declare sin in so declaring.

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